Thursday, September 28, 2017

Mike's Quest, Part 4 ( "Game Shippers")

 From Drake & Josh to iCarly to.........whatever this is.

Hi. My name is Mike Anderson and this is my quest. I'm like that guy. That Spanish guy. You know, the one who fought the windmills? I don't know, Don Quixote or something. Anyway, I'm on a mission to review at least one episode of every live-action sitcom currently running on Nickelodeon and Disney Channel. Will I be able to do it by the end of the year? Very low chance of that happening, but I don't see the point in forgetting about this. It keeps me busy. The rules I made up a year ago no longer apply since too much time has passed, but I do have one question:

Should I review I Am Frankie or not? Let me know in the comment section, or maybe Ray can fill me in on if the show's worth the time.

I haven't even seen it yet, I'm just letting it build up on my DVR like everything else.

Hey, did you know that Seth MacFarlane has a new show? It's like a Star Trek spoof or something. Hey, I did a review of it down below! You can, like, add your thoughts to it!

Shows reviewed: The Thundermans, Liv & Maddie, Nicky, Ricky, Dicky, and Dawn

Shows yet to review: Bunk'd, School of Rock, Stuck in the Middle, K.C. Undercover, Raven's Home, Andi Mack, Bizaardvark

I'm not going to beat around the bush here: Game Shakers sucks. You probably already knew that, but yeah, Game Shakers sucks. The only thing about the show that surprises me is how long I took to review it. I could have torn the pilot to shreds, but it's not fair to any show to do that. Even if the pilot was aggressively terrible (and it was), letting a show develop and figure itself out is important to understand as a viewer. But after two years, I'm not giving it the benefit of the doubt anymore. This show is just as bad as it was in season one. It hasn't made any attempt to improve from what I can see. Hudson is still mentally disabled saying random things at random times because stupid people are funny, Kel Mitchell is still acting circles around the rest of the cast, and this is still a waste of Benjamin Flores, Jr.'s time.  In a perfect world, The Haunted Hathaways would have been given more seasons.

I've been watching episodes of The Haunted Hathaways on TeenNick (you know what else is weird? That it's TeenNick, not TeeNick, like they haven't yet caught on to the fact that Teen ends with an "N" and Nick starts with an "N") and even though I've seen every single episode of The Haunted Hathaways new (well, except for the penultimate episode, Haunted Swamp or whatever, but I did eventually see that one anyway) after watching them more recently I've concluded that...this series was actually kind of awful, too. A good three quarters of it really is just Taylor (that's Amber Montana, now Amber Frank) getting gunk'd on, or other crap happening to her, and a part of me has to wonder if all that didn't effect her outlook on the whole acting gig period. 

You have to remember, the period starting at the very beginning of 2013 (really even into 2012, pretty much as soon as iCarly ended) all the way to 2015 (when THH got canceled) wasn't a good time for Nickelodeon at all. They were cancelling series left and right and especially at the beginning of that period, 2013-14, they really basically handed Disney Channel any ratings advantage they wanted on a bright, shiny silver platter. That was a real golden time for Disney Channel (well, continuing the golden era that started all the way back with Wizards of Waverly Place) and while they had shows that gave that golden era legitimacy (Good Luck Charlie, Jessie, Austin & Ally, Shake it Up, Phineas and Ferb, Gravity Falls, even A.N.T. Farm were all pretty much at their peak at that time) it's easy to think that the relatively weak state of Nickelodeon helped bolster that position even further. Along those lines, the ratings for both THH and Thundermans were in the proverbial toilet (quite literally, worse than Sam & Cat, so think about that), and it's very likely both would've been canceled at that point in 2015 if it weren't for the fact that had Nickelodeon actually done that, it would've wiped their live-action slate completely clean - when live-action multi-cams were still their bread and butter at the time (this being at the very end of the era when Nickelodeon bet the farm on live-action multi-cams from the height of the Schneider era and before the current era when Nickelodeon started to fall back more on animation - heck it's probably because of this that Nickelodeon started to fall back on animation again) and when they just didn't have enough new shows waiting in the wings to pick up the slack had both been canceled. So one series had to survive guaranteed, in the same way Chrylser wasn't going to back down from their new Pacifica minivan because even if it had failed it would've meant they had dang near literally zero cars to actually sell (no seriously, go on their website and you can see for yourself that they have exactly two car models to offer, the Pacifica and the ancient 300). With all that said, Thundermans was easily the stronger of the two at the time so it was a no-brainer, and it just so happened that Thundermans also found its voice in the second season and went on to not only become the network's ratings juggernaut but go on for a total of four seasons, the first show to do so since Big Time Rush and there was serious talk about the show even getting a fifth season, something the network's seen exactly once out of its live-action shows in the form of iCarly. So I'll admit, it does make one wonder what would've happened if they had simply renewed both shows instead of been so cancel-happy at the time.

But at the very least, yeah, THH is infinitely better than Game Shakers, even at that show's worst.

 "Sky Whale" was, not even kidding, the worst pilot episode I've seen of any show. It's really interesting that the show is at the same level of quality now that it was when it first started. At least Henry Danger was somewhat decent at first until it became absolutely unbearable and stupid every episode. The bar continues to be lowered with everything that Dan Schneider creates, and this episode emphasized that. Why make an actual story when we can spend the entire runtime reminding you how great iCarly was?

So the episode is about iCarly stans Babe and Kenzie trying to meet Nathan Kress so they can ask him who Freddie ended up liking on the show. This is the big question that will pull people in: Who was Freddie into more? Who do you ship? Who cares at all? The one thing I wanted to talk about here was that we're now officially at the point where iCarly is considered a classic show. You know, to the point where they have the characters reference it as this great thing and call it "classic." I mean, I get the motivation since this was arguably Dan Schneider's most popular show and got a lot of mainstream attention during its run. But the show just ended a few years ago. Are we already looking at it as this all-time legendary kid sitcom? The show dipped in quality after a certain point, and a lot of what it did was like a slightly better version of whatever these shows do now. Imagine a few years down the line where these Schneider shows start referencing Victorious and Sam & Cat and praising them as shows on the level of All That or Hey Arnold.

That underlining and bold'ing was me, Ray, BTW. I did that for emphasis because they already started doing that. In the latest episodes of Henry Danger, Live and Dangerous Pts. 1 and 2, BTW. In reference to Sam & Cat, no less (at least Victorious more than kinda deserves that level of praise, prior to "Season 4" at least). 

We'll get to Live and Dangerous too, BTW.

You know what? This could be an entirely different post. Bottom line, watching this episode was a waste of time. All it did was advertise the iCarly marathon that Teenick had a few weeks ago. "Hey, the characters love this hilarious and intelligent show! I should watch it too!" The only plot here has no resolution. Nathan tells the kids that he doesn't know who Freddie ended up with since he wasn't a writer or producer so how the hell would he even be able to answer that question? Then right before he tells them who he thinks Freddie would be with, something happens with Double G and the episode just ends. Literally the only reason to watch this episode gets killed in the last few minutes. They baited you with the guest appearance of an actor you remember from that show you liked when you were younger, and don't even answer their own question. What was the point of making this an episode other than elevating the status of iCarly to kids who were probably too young to remember it? In between that, there's nothing else to keep you interested. The jokes are unfunny, the characters just talk about the show and how good it was, and it doesn't even look like Nathan himself wanted to be there. This isn't even a Game Shakers episode, it's just a commercial for Dan Schneider's last good show. And it's a little pathetic that they felt the need to do this. iCarly was a successful, beloved show in its time, and not only was it a ratings hit, but it had quotable moments and scored high-profile guest stars. It was never an underrated show that deserved more attention or got cancelled before its time like Victorious. It can stand on its own two feet. But this episode obviously had a different opinion.

Episode Grade: F
Episode MVP: Kel Mitchell, by default. Seriously, him and his entourage are what save this show from being 100% unwatchable. The funniest moment in the series is during the Christmas episode where Double G performs "Jingle Bells" and ends up getting his head caught on fire. He's just running around the whole time and his crew stands around like idiots having no idea what to do about it. It was absolutely hilarious and I feel bad for everything Kel does to make this show worth a damn.

-The only notable thing I got from this episode wasn't even from this episode. It was actually afterwards on this new hangout show on Nick where I found out that there will be a Henry Danger/Game Shakers crossover in November. I have no idea how that will work or why this is happening, but from the looks of it, it will be a Henry Danger episode. Not that it matters, but, you know. I look forward to trashing it when it comes out. Besides, crossovers are always fun to me. In this one, I finally find out which show is worse.

-The way this episode's conflict is set up is just so weird. Babe and Kenzie are watching the iCarly marathon on Teenick (which they essentially say so this is self-promotion) and having a good old time. But they're not watching actual episodes, they're just watching random scenes from the series. And it's not like there's any indication that time has passed, because every time they cut to the screen, they show a random clip. It's like they're watching a YouTube compilation video, which would make more sense. Then Triple G and Hudson join in and just start laughing at these clips with zero context. Then Double G and his crew come in and start watching too. Then they all fall asleep having watched the random clip marathon for several hours. There's no conflict here or anything, it's just that they overslept even though the episode makes it seem like Babe and Kenzie should have been doing something else. That's when Hudson asks if the show ever revealed who Freddie ended up with. Why did they put in this scene of everyone watching iCarly? What does it add to the plot other than telling us that iCarly is now getting the Drake and Josh treatment? The only good thing that comes out of this is Double G referring to the show as a less funny version of Kenan and Kel. I loved that joke, but that's the only sign of humility that this episode gives us.

-Also, the conflict itself is pretty dumb. Why would the majority of iCarly fans care about who Freddie ended up with? Was that something that people kept asking Dan so he made this episode? Besides, there's proof that he liked both girls depending on who you ship. The series finale gave Freddie a win with Carly's goodbye kiss, but that Sam & Cat episode indicated that Freddie might have been willing to give Sam another chance. So everybody's happy and I shouldn't even be talking about this because that's not what I signed up to do.

-Another weird scene is where Triple G, Hudson, Double G, and his boys are hosting an iCarly viewing party in the middle of the day. What the hell is going on here? Don't these people have work or school? What day is this? They're just dancing around eating spaghetti tacos and having a good old time. I get that this appeals to iCarly fans (except me), but couldn't they have actually tried to write a decent story revolving around the show while not making it seem like it's the greatest thing Nickelodeon ever made?

-Hudson said some dumb shit in this episode, but I can't remember it at all. I actually want to talk about Hudson for a minute. He's probably the worst character Dan Schneider has created in a long time. He literally just exists to say random non-sequiturs and stupid one-liners that aren't funny at all. I don't know why people are obsessed with stupid characters so much. They have no value to the show if they're only capable of saying and doing dumb things and the characters hate them as much as the audience does. I'm not saying shows shouldn't have stupid characters, but you need to flesh them out and give them more traits beyond being stupid. Their stupidity shouldn't define who they are. Drake Parker is a great example. He did poorly in school, and didn't always catch on to things but cared deeply about his music, was charismatic, and made up for what he lacked in brains with his social skills. Plus, he was at least aware of how stupid he was and some great jokes were made from his stupidity. Hudson will never have a "South Amareeca" moment because at least 96% of what he says is "South Amareeca" shit. This is what his dialogue sounds like:

BABE: We really need to work on this game.

KENZIE: I know! You don't have to jump on my back!

TRIP: Will you guys calm down?

HUDSON: If tomatoes are a fruit, then are lemons vegetables?

-How long is this season supposed to be? Benjamin Flores, Jr.'s voice has already changed but in the episodes airing now, Trip still sounds the same. It feels like this season is never going to end because of how much it has been stretched out.

-Game Shakers is based in New York. I want the city to be associated with shows like Power and Everybody Hates Chris, not this crap.

Wednesday, September 27, 2017

The Orville Episode Review: Command Performance (S1E2)

We're not your Shamu!

What is it? 44-minute/hour-long(!) single-cam drama/parody series
Where did it air? Well it's a Seth MacFarlane show so of course it's going to be on FOX, with all the other Seth MacFarlane shows that cumulative could make up like 44% of the network, and in both new and rerun form currently makes up 80% of TBS.
Who stars in it? Well it's created by Seth MacFarlane so of course it's also gotta star Seth MacFarlane himself, Adriana Patelik (?, yeah I'm going off by memory here again) who you'll likely recognize from Marvel's (lol) Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. (double-lol), and Halston Sage(!), who you'll recognize from various things like How to Rock (if you actually remember that show) and Paper Towns (if you bothered to catch its limited release or stream it/bought/rented the DVD/Blu-Ray).
Why are we reviewing this? Because I love Star Trek, and given what we Trekkies have been getting for the past dozen years yeah I'll take this one.

Well...that was unexpected, and when I say this about a Seth MacFarlane show that almost always means in a good way.

The pilot/first episode was a big pile of meh so why don't we just skip that entirely shall we? The two other episodes so far are massive improvements, a bigger turn-around than even Liv and Maddie (so that it's setting a very high bar for itself, well-done, I guess?) The third episode...well, in classic MacFarlane fashion it ended up being a little controversial (and not having a transgender perspective, I really don't know how to approach the issues, at least in the most fair manner to the five or seven or so of you who bother to read this blog) and besides I think the second episode best balances the comedy/parody and "Seth clearly just wants to live out his childhood fantasies of being a Starfleet captain on broadcast TV" aspects that the show is going for anyway, so let's go with that one.

Let's get this upfront first: this is Seth's best series so far, bar none. It's better than all of Family Guy, American Dad!, Cleveland Show, A Million Ways to Die in the West and both Ted movies combined. Yes, that sets a low bar but this is seriously a quality show here. Hell it's better than all that plus throwing in the entirety of Star Trek: Enterprise, probably a good chunk of Star Trek: Voyager too.

I haven't seen this show yet and I don't know if I plan to, but I don't think it will ever hold a candle to the first four seasons of FG and seasons 2-9 of AD, combined. The Cleveland Show? Yeah, why not?

And yes, that still sets a low bar but trust me on this.

I wouldn't be giving it such (relatively?) high praise if first and foremost it didn't actually feel like a Star Trek show. All those nerdy references Seth's been giving us throughout Family Guy especially have finally paid off here. And yet at the same time it doesn't feel inaccessible to a non-Trekkie at all - which is absolutely vital if this show's gonna attract any kind of viewership necessary for survival.I really do feel like you can have literally zero background or prior knowledge of Trek and still enjoy it, yet there's more than enough subtle referential humor or allusions sprinkled throughout for the Trekkie to appreciate.

At the same time, again Command Performance in particular gives enough room for the type of comedy and spoofing people are really coming in for when they hear about a series created by Seth MacFarlane. Compared to the other two, that ends up being this episode's greatest strength: the pilot frankly kinda forgot it was a parody and it resulted in an extremely lame effort, while About a Girl very wisely laid back off on it to not interfere with the episode's issues at hand, however you feel about them. And the humor plays off to Seth's greatest strengths, too - it's not trying to be some sort of overarching joke in the way Family Guy tends to be, in exactly the way that makes people accuse Family Guy of being a Simpsons ripoff - all of the humor comes from exactly how actual, real people would react to the crazy and belief-stretching plotlines that Trek has a tendency to delve into, especially on its off days (Voyager and Enterprise especially to the point where it became the bulk of those series, TNG by a large margin too, and while DS9 was by far the least offender it still had plenty of those silly-stupid off episodes - and as for the original series, well...yeah, let's face it, it's what that series built its reputation on, if the original series wasn't this silly we wouldn't even have The Orville to be discussing here). Command Performance really shows us what this series is about: normal, actually pretty believable characters that we can actually relate to, except they happen to be in this spaceship fleet thingy and zooming around in spaceships. But they don't forget that they're real people while they're doing it.

TNG, especially, really tried to force its characters into the "ideal officer" mold and consequently they come off as much more wooden if not at least in some cases and circumstances even completely interchangeable, down to the delivery of the actors' dialogue. Again, DS9 was the least offender in all of this, really humanizing its characters by the time it really got into its stride. And then Voyager and Enterprise reversed that and made everyone wooden interchangeable characters again *rolleyes*.

But yeah, that's basically Command Performance in a nutshell - actual people, actual characters living out a typical Star Trek episode. And that's what makes it pretty great so far.

This is more of a general post about Seth MacFarlane, but honestly, his work benefits more from being influenced by the talent around him. The early years of Family Guy had people like David Zuckerman, Neil Goldman, Garrett Donovan, Mike Barker, and Matt Weitzman. American Dad was co-created by MacFarlane, but other than voicing Stan and Roger (MacFarlane's greatest strength is definitely his voice acting, to the point where I sometimes forget he even voices Stan and Roger), he doesn't contribute anything to the show. It was Barker and Weitzman who took the show and turned it into a unique, off-the-wall, cocaine-addicted Simpsons after everyone thought it was just a Family Guy ripoff that wouldn't last. And when Seth actually has tried to take creative matters into his own hands, it has ranged from surprisingly good (Ted) to unbelievably lazy and embarrassing for someone of his caliber (Cavalcade of Cartoon Comedy). I don't know where The Orville falls on the spectrum, but there's a reason why I tend to give a side eye to his projects. 

Oh, I think it's definitely better than Ted (like I said, that plus literally everything else he's ever done/been associated with combined) and I definitely think it's one of those cases where he's benefiting from the influence of the talent around him, even if it's mostly going to be the acting talent in this case. The material itself is pretty neutral - you give it to meh-tastic actors and it's going to fall flat, like many Trek parodies that have come before (whether those that have been on actual television - mainly SyFy, as you might imagine - or effectively fanmade production on YouTube and whatnot). But it's Seth and the talent around him - Adrianne, Halston, all those guys whose names I clearly haven't yet bothered to remember, like that one guy who looks like Seth Green, you know who I mean, and given how much Seth and Seth have collaborated yeah I'm actually kinda shocked it isn't  Seth Green but you get my point - yeah the talent is really helping here.

Episode Grade: A-. This might seem like a very strong start but keep in mind this is the second episode, and I'm skipping the first episode specifically because it ended up super lame. Still, it's a very strong start and yes that grade is also influenced by how at least equally strong the follow-up episode was, so I do feel every reason to believe that The Orville will keep up this momentum. Or at least hope for it.
Episode MVP: Yes, I'm giving it to Seth, but I'm also co-awarding it to Adrianne because it's those two who really brought home the "Star Trek but with normal people in it" angle that's sold me on this series.

Extra Thoughts:

 - Surprisingly enough this show's virtually gone out of its way to avoid any Red Shirt jokes. I...actually really admire Seth for that, because especially after having seen this and About a Girl, Red Shirt jokes come off as really cheap. I can't believe I'm saying this, but it looks like Seth's above that now.

Tuesday, September 26, 2017

Star Trek: Discovery Episode Mini-Review: The Vulcan Hello (S1E1, "Pilot" [we'll get to those quotation marks too])

Instead of pulling an actual quote from the episode, I'm just going to post this instead:

What is it? A 40-minute goddamned trailer with friggin' commercial breaks. That's what it is.
Where did it air? See-Fuckin'-BS, that's where
Who stars in it? Michelle Yeoh, that one insanely hot actress from TWD, a bunch of who cares. Rainn Wilson was supposed to be in it. Someone point out to me where the fuck Rainn Wilson was.
Why are we reviewing this? Because Star Trek, whatever.

Yeah, like I said, this isn't a "pilot" episode, this is an extended trailer, so extended in fact it has fucking commercial breaks. If you want to see the real pilot episode you literally have to buy past CBS All Access' freakin' paywall.

As I understand it Star Trek: Discovery is CBS All Access' only original content, so it's not worth paying a monthly subscription for one goddamn freakin' show

Screw this shit.

Episode Grade: A big fat solid F. There was about 20 minutes or so of redundant dialogue that just kept telling us the same thing over and over again, and basically stalling for time so they can fill up the episode before they force you to hit that paywall, and I swear another 20 minutes of commercials. At least fundamentally speaking, The pilot of Riverdale was better than this. Quality-wise, it's...slightly better enough to not get Riverdale's minus grade.
Episode MVP: Sonequa Martin-Green and no not just because she's really hot in this but because she's the only actual person in here who actually has opportunities to act in what has to be setting a record as the World's Longest Trailer.

Extra Thoughts:

 - why friggin' bother? 

Sunday, September 24, 2017

Descendants 2 DCOM Reviewed

Ugh, why the hell do I wait sooooo long for these? I can't even remember the quote I wanted to use. Wow, no wonder I can't crawl out of a readership of, like, the five of you.

What is it? Disney Channel Original Movie sequel to Descendants from two years ago.
Where did it air? Well, the whole "Disney Channel Original Movie" thing should kind of clue you in to that.
Who stars in it? You know the usual drill, Dove, Cameron (hah, see what I did there? Oh, you probably did, yeah, I'll, uhh...go back to writing....), Booboo, Sofia, with China Ann McClain as...what's her name? What's her name? Yeah you get that too. 
Why are we reviewing this? Ugh, if I barely felt like ever reviewing this in the first place I don't really feel like answering this other than "it should be obvious by now, just read the title of the blog."

Sometimes I really do think I spite myself, with what I try to do here in the name of reader convenience, and then insisting on sticking to that formula for everything even when the reader plainly and obviously knows what we're doing, and then I just complain about how droll filling out all that above stuff is and call it a review.

But anyway, with a lot on our docket including a whole bunch of non-Disney Channel/Nick stuff - yeah I suddenly decided to review Orville, Star Trek: Discovery and Star Trek: Enterprise on here - along with all the stuff we should be covering - Henry Danger: Live and Dangerous for one, Duck Tales especially, a bunch of other stuff - I decided we really need to knock this one out of the way first. It's been...over two months, wow, that has to be a record even for me.

What that does give me, however, is a lot of time to think about how to approach this review and I've decided to just be blunt about it: I thought it was basically largely a rehash of the first movie, which was just a big giant pile of meh and "stuff happening that the kiddies will eat up" to begin with. And as coldly cynical of an analysis as that is, well, here's another one: looks like they're right about the "the kiddies will eat it up" part.

So rather than concentrate on that, I'd rather concentrate on what I did like: China Ann McClain, full stop. She absolutely made this movie. I mean, you can just see with all her power why they designed the very premise of A.N.T. Farm around her - yeah, she really is crazy talented, as close to a real life Advanced Natural Talent as you'd probably get. It'd be really pointless and repetitive at this point to do so, but I absolutely can spend the rest of this review doing nothing but raving about how damn good China was in this, and at the end of the day it was worth watching just for her performances. Her acting and musical numbers were fun to watch and she was spot on with everything whether it be timing or just whatever you can name. If Hollywood really was about nothing but raw talent China Ann McClain should be a household name in a few years, if not already, and I sincerely hope that turns out to be the case. She really does deserve it. I've never seen an actor more deserving of it.

And that's not to say Dove was a major downgrade from the first movie either - no, make no mistake she's just as on-point if not moreso in this one. In fact the greatest strength of this movie and the Descendants franchise overall, as a creative work, is its cast - it's extremely strong, don't get me wrong, whether it's China, Dove, Cameron (yeah I can't resist that still), Booboo or Sofia. Every one of them, and all the other "lesser" players from Brianna or whoever, that guy who plays Harry, on down, absolutely elevate their material., yeah. I think the material kind of sucks. For all I just raved about pretty much everybody in it...well, except Guy who plays Ben, Guy who plays Ben's still Guy who plays Ben, and no that is not a compliment. The plot is droll and contrived, and I found my attention easily drawn away from the action. Speaking of which, the one actual fight scene was...pretty damn laughable. I mean, yeah. It sucked, there's no other way around it, and if Kenny choreographed that he should honestly feel a little embarrassed and maybe learn how to actually choreograph a sword fight scene. And I understand this is Disney Channel and you might not necessarily want to have kids stabbing other kids (and considering how I'm involved right now in "community outreach" with some girls who went to jail because they tried to shoot up some other girls, it's a topic I'm pretty sensitive to myself nowadays) but...if your censors keep your kid-on-kid sword fight scenes from being anything but awkward, maybe you should find some sort of workaround from having to have a kid-on-kid sword fight scene. Maybe more individual one-on-one fights instead of just having a bunch of boys and girls come after a bunch of other boys and girls and create...whatever the hell that was supposed to be that actually transpired on our screens. Whatever. 

And now, after that I've read my own paragraph there, I feel like stepping out and saying/emphasizing that I'm really not cool with the idea of kid-on-kid violence, especially girl-on-girl violence (defining "girl" here specifically as a female under what's typically considered the "adult" age of 18). I'm not in favor of gender inequity here, but rather violence has nothing to do with gender inequity anyway (or rather, more specifically, violence is exactly counter-productive and the exact opposite of gender equity anyway, so no, girl-on-girl or boy-on-girl violence isn't somehow advancing feminism and gender equity by whatever...severely twisted and flawed logic that's being used) and again, considering that I'm currently working with a bunch of girls (again, using the term specifically to define women under 18 here) who are in freakin' jail for girl-on-girl violence, yeah, I'm really not cool with the idea of kid-on-kid and especially girl-on-girl violence. But still, that whole swordfight scene was.... It was.... was something like, somewhere in between Henry Danger and Game Shakers-worthy. Maybe even Game Shakers and School of Rock-worthy.

And the final confrontation between Mal and Uma was pretty interesting...until it went super-anti-climatic on us. Cue everyone dancing to Set it Off (or whatever music they used this time) and the obligatory "what you think this is the end?" and yadda yadda.

DCOM Grade: A flat C. You have China Ann McClain to thank for this not being a C- or even into D territory.
DCOM MVP: I'm really tempted to give it to the redhead girl who was the head waitress at Uma's bar or even more seriously the little girl who played...what's her face, the daughter of...what's her face, one of Cinderella's stepsisters, the one who was played by Hayley Atwell (who is super-hot, just saying) in the Cinderella live-action movie or of course Dove but...c'mon, this has to go to China (Ann McClain, we're not sending anything physical to the People's Republic of China). Again, we might be looking at a D+ movie even if she wasn't in it.

Extra Thoughts:

 - I've got nothing right now, maybe Mike has something. I dunno. It's been so damn long.

 - Yeah, let's face it, I'll level with ya'll: I was holding this off because, well, I got a bunch of big nothing to really say about it. This whole movie was, again, kind of a whole big nothing. I had really more to say about "Harry Hook really isn't an LGBTQ+ character unless specifically stated or shown otherwise" than I did about the movie itself.

 - Oh, and in addition to the name change (or rather, just giving myself a name period) I also gave myself a custom profile pic which you should be able to see. In case it's hard to tell, it's a really crappy stylized "N & DC" (for Nick and Disney Channel, obvs) that I did in like literally 10 minutes in MS Paint.

Monday, September 4, 2017

The Bold Type Season 1 Mini-Review

We at least need to check out your vageen (yes this is a word-for-word direct quote, spelling and all)

What is it? Hour-long domestic/workplace drama on Freeform
Who stars in it? Katie Stevens from Faking It (which I understand is a very similar workplace femme-focused drama), Aisha Dee who seems to have had a number of significant roles with various other shows and Meghann Fahy (yes her name's spelled corrected) in which this seems to be her first major starring role on a TV series and may I add, yes as a redhead is quite a stunner ^_^
Where does it air? Freeform, which tries to advertise itself as Disney Channel but for cool older kids. It's actual success at it seems somewhat mixed especially now that Pretty Little Liars has bowed out (indeed, a few of their hopeful similarly-themed PLL replacements seems to have arrived with massive, dead thuds and TBT seems to be a turn towards a different direction, but more on that).
Why are we reviewing this? Well, we'll get into that., what a frustrating show to watch.

I was really looking forward to this when I first heard about it - yes, the "incredibly sexy women working at basically Cosmo" was a hook, but what I'm really interested in is "incredibly sexy women become well-rounded characters and legitimate feminist pioneers in an industry that, while seem as being dominated by women, still largely cater to men's interests, especially financially and sexually and start breaking barriers and changing cultures" which is practically this show's tagline (I'm sure the real one is less long-winded). This is one of my favorite genres in young adult lit and adult lit books aimed at younger 20-somethings (and I'm not afraid to admit I loved The Devil Wears Prada) and it was exciting to see something like this, a "what if in The Devil Wears Prada Anne Hathaway's character just refuses to take any bullshit whatsoever from literally Day 1?" as a regular, weekly series in 1080p glory.

Unfortunately, the series we actually get doesn't quite pan out that way. There are hints of pioneering feminism and fierce independence here and there, but all-in-all I feel the show is exactly seeped in the same male dominance the characters are allegedly trying to fight. The main trio are constantly trying to push for more articles of substance, are constantly being pushed back by demands they write articles that glorify women as sex objects and little more and...really, I think the series has our main trio simply cave too much and celebrate it as a victory. There's some interesting LGB...well, L issues being explored and while it manages to rise above "the only reason this show even has lesbians, or a kinda-sorta-maybe lesbian, is because the hetero guys think it's hot" (kinda) quite frankly that's not enough nowadays, when even Doc McStuffins and Good Luck Charlie can have lesbians portrayed in a positive or at least neutral light and while I don't mind lesbians expressly showing interest in being romanced (that kinda is the whole point of being a lesbian, or being hetero or anywhere on the sexuality spectrum aside from asexual, after all) or even being objectified, that objectification has to come with some justification. Aisha's character - Kat - does indeed have that justification, and I'm not saying it's weak, I'm saying it feels weak relative to other portrayals of lesbians I've seen on television. The bar's just simply moved, and it feels like Freeform's keeping up only with the absolute bare minimum just so they can say, hey, we're with the times.

And as for our remaining two heroines, Jane and Sutton...they do kinda-sorta feel like minimally spiced-up The Devil Wears Prada copy-pasta jobs.

I know the professional reviewers rave about this, especially from reviewers who at least claim to actually be from this exact type of magazine background and say that this is practically 100% accurate. I don't doubt that accuracy...and that's what scares me. I specifically want to see strong women, but it feels like the show's trying to handwave and convince us that these women have strength when I don't really see it. That's what makes it absolutely disheartening and frustrating to watch, and I really, really hope that the professional women working in actual magazines are better able t express opinions regarding distasteful articles and practices in favor of ones that might better appeal to other professional women and make professional women realize that these articles actually have substance and of use instead of basically advertising oneself as a sex object. And again, there's nothing wrong with expressing sexuality, whether with oneself or with another - but Kat and Sutton's quest to give Jane her first orgasm just comes off as incredibly awkward and even downright comfortable.

I don't know. Maybe it's just because I'm not a woman. We have, like, a single female commentator here and I don't know if it's enough to really get to know if my feelings and assessment here is legitimate or not. Aside from just going by the ratings, which so far isn't great and even worse (actually much worse) than two one-and-done series canceled from last year, Guilt and Dead of Summer.

So, uh, well I guess no mini-review of Season 2 then :(

Season Grade: C+-ish to B minus-ish, I'm leaving a lot of wiggle room to account for "maybe I just don't get it," but I stand by saying that I still feel wanting more than "women romp around working for a glorified sex magazine." I was going to add "and celebrate at the end of every episode just for surviving another day" but if it really was about that I think I would've kept watching.
Season MVP: But I will say it's very well-cast and all the actors are top-notch and very believable. Any of these women could very well get it, but I'm giving it to Meghann Fahy because she's really drop-dead gorgeous. Really, she's one of the most beautiful women I've ever seen in my life, I mean it. Not that the other women aren't absolutely to-die-for gorgeous either.

...and now that I'm actually reading what I'm typing, I realized I kinda self-defeated that whole "I wish this was actually more feminist" rant.

Extra Thoughts

 - wow, that really didn't end up being all that much of a mini-rant after all, didn't it?

 - In case you're wondering what I think of Freeform in Shadowhunters, with an insanely hot redhead in it. PLL is...fucking bonkers, with an extremely hot daughter of a bigshot TV executive producer in it. Beyond that I don't even know of any shows that made the ABC Family/Freeform transition or premiered since. I'll always associate ABC Family/Freeform with The Secret Life of the American Teenager, the show AV Club claimed was invented by aliens with only a minimal, fragile grasp on what the human species is actually like. 

Well...there is one show I've seen, the reality-docu Cheer Squad which...I really, really liked. Professional cheerleading (yes it's a real sport/thing) may not have the most feminist street cred (and I know I severely damaged mine throughout the course of this review) but it's really interesting seeing just how hard these women work and just how intense it is, but sadly it doesn't seem to have been renewed (it premiered around this time last year).

 - Hopefully we'll actually have a Descendants 2 review tomorrow. And it only took us, what, a month and a half?

- Oh, and so is I Am Frankie. This is actually a series I've really been looking forward to since it was announced. Then again I seem to have a disproportionate fondness for these imported/semi-imported shows, whether single-cam or multi-cam (as was the case with Every Witch Way/WITS Academy/Talia in the Kitchen which I have an extreme disproportionate fondness for).

 - Hope you're enjoying your Labor Day! I'm...choking from smoke from forest fires literally thousands of miles away. Yay.

 - I'm not even joking Every Witch Way was pretty much my 2014/2015 now that I think about it.

Friday, September 1, 2017

Doc McStuffins Reviewed: "The Emergency Plan"/"What a Quack"

She's going to make a fantastic toy ducktor! Oh, I mean doctor!

What is it? CGI-animated A-B format (two 11-minute episodes per half hour) cartoon 
Where did it air? Both the Disney Junior block on Disney Channel and the dedicated Disney Junior channel.
Who stars in it? There's certainly a lot of yeoman voice talent going around, but regular readers of this blog will recognize Laya DeLeon Hayes as the voice of Doc McStuffins herself and as Priya from Liv and Maddie: Cali Style!
Why are we reviewing this? Eh, beyond our children's TV reviews-with-swear bombs mission statement there's not much to really offer other than why not?

Doc McStuffins is usually recognized as one of the best shows on Disney Junior right now, and with really good reason - much has been made about its inclusivity and medical accuracy in a way that can be introduced to children, but none of that would mean a hill of beans if it just wasn't that damn good. Between Elena of Avalor which...well, admittedly is also just damn good, Sofia the First which is just simply too princess-y for my tastes to tolerate, and PJ Masks which...yes I know it's based on a French comic but it really just strikes me as a pale imitation of something you might find on Nickelodeon like say PAW Patrol or a certain other French-based the very least Doc McStuffins is fighting with Elena as the two best shows on Disney Junior right now, even if by default.

That said...I really liked the first few seasons a whole lot better before the "move" to McStuffinsville Toy Hospital. The show just felt more interesting while the new season feels anti-climatic (yes really) and more paint-by-numbers in comparison. I'm not really sure why it's just that...being in a town full of animated toys just feels much less interesting than being a regular ole' toy doctor, I guess.

We have our first episode, The Emergency Plan which loyal reader Shipping Wars are Stupid kinda-sorta brought up in our Harry Hook blog post since it features a family with two moms and...well, if it weren't for the fact that the big toy dragon keeps using the word moms instead of parents, that's the only evidence I have that convinces me that the writers and animators themselves didn't just outright forget these were same-sex parents. Some of you may feel that's a major win because it gives normalcy to same-sex parents, some of you may feel it's a missed opportunity because it doesn't lead to a much bigger discussion about diversity during a time when, boy howdy do we need it. 

I really honestly feel like these are two female mom-parents because no duh they're dolls, what the hell else are they gonna be? Everyone knows the guy dolls are lame anyway! My point being is, the fact that they happen to be both moms in the same family feels more a function of them just being dolls rather than pointing out diversity in family make-ups to me, which is why I'm not even bothering to refer to them as lesbians. I was going to argue that them being dolls makes them feel like they belong more on the "+" side as opposed to the "L" side of the LGBTQ+ spectrum, but not even that - the fact that this is contextualized as dolls and toys really makes it feel like it falls far outside that spectrum, or any sexual spectrum whatsoever. It just...doesn't really feel contextualized in a way that makes me feel positive about diversity. Don't get me wrong, it doesn't feel like a negative depiction of diversity either, it just feels...perfectly neutral.

...which I suppose is appropriate because that's really how the rest of the episode feels. It's just...well, neutral. Stuff happens, and it's pretty obvious that this episode doesn't really have much about diversity as it does emergency preparedness (hence the episode), which granted is especially topical now. But it really does feel like a PSA with Doc McStuffins characters extended into an 11-minute episode.

In some ways that's my least favorite "Junior"-genre episode because I grew up in a time when that's all we got from the age ranges of say 7 and younger. It feels not only lazy, but obligatory in a take it and like it approach. That said, well, it's ok here I guess.

And the B-episode, "What a Quack"...starts out more interestingly with actual conflict!, but that conflict deflates quickly in what I feel is an extremely anti-climatic chase scene. From there it's...really more PSA.

The first few seasons of Doc McStuffins were not this PSA-y, trust me.

Episodes Grades: C+ for both.
Episodes MVP: Laya because Priya kicked ass and took names.

Extra Thoughts- 

 - yeah, it freaks me out that the dolls have more human proportions than the actual human who barely towers over them.

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Thundermans Update

I haven't forgotten about the whole Thundermans review I had planned. However, this past weekend, it's been hard to find time to sit...

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